Well the US may have taken a step forward but the great white north otherwise known as Canada continues to hide its contempt of people of colour behind our national lie of multiculturalism. A crouton gets more respect than people of colour do. We are the invisible citizens, the national embarrassment despite our many contributions to the country.
For Non Canadians reading this post, Shoppers Drug Mart is the largest pharmacy chain in Canada. It is as iconic as Hockey Night In Canada, Tim Hortons, Don Cherry, and the Maple Leaf. You can imagine my surprise when I read at the CBC that a Shoppers Drug Mart in Nova Scotia, has decided to put black hair care products behind lock and key. If you want to get a relaxer (which costs about 12$) you need to find a clerk to help you. If all hair care products were under lock and key, I would not have a problem with this decision; however only products specifically marketed to blacks receive this kind of treatment. Clearly the message to the consumers is that Shoppers views all blacks as potential thieves.
Apparently this is a policy that has been going on for years. Teh thieving blacks cannot be trusted you see. When asked about racism in the stores policy, the owner of this particular store referred questions to the head office. Isn’t it just lovely to pass the buck. I have been in many Shoppers over the years and I have never seen anything behind lock and key besides their foul smelling perfume line. Clearly this is a policy of the proprietor of this particular store.
Okay fellow Canadians it is time for a reality check. Racism is not just something that happens south of the border. I know that you would like to live in denial of the systemic inequality, hate crimes, police brutality, and slavery that have occurred here but black Canadians have paid a terrible price to live here. Being the final stop on the underground railroad does not erase many of the social injustices that we have had to live with.
Canadians have a tendency to practice a far more subtle form of racism than that which is practiced by our American cousins but there is no doubt that not only do we define ourselves oppositionally to the US (the excuse we use to claim status as an equal society) but that we have largely constructed the Canadian identity by default to be white. On one hand we are proud to be the last stop on the underground railroad and yet people are astonished to hear that a black person was actually born on Canadian soil. Yeah believe it or not there are blacks that have been here for generations.
Blackness and a Canadian identity are only conflated with one another when it promote white hegemony. If one has any doubt as to this fact, a simple evening spent watching Canadian programming will reveal a whiteness that is almost blinding in its erasure of bodies of colour. The US may present us in prime time as pimps and drug dealers but Canadian broadcasting networks would prefer to pretend that we do not exist period.
Each and every day there are examples of the ways in which Canada is a racist country. Declaring ourselves not racist in comparison to the US does not mean that racism is not alive and well in Canada. When politicians can publicly declare “that violence is caused by people who have grown up in different cultures and not the average boy next door”, clearly being a body of colour is to be understood as a criminal. If our elected leaders can can make statements like this without feeling that it threatens their career, is it any wonder that Shoppers felt justified in locking away, black products? After learning about this incident, I agree that Shoppers Drug Mart is indeed Canada’s drug store; it’s racist and privileges whiteness just like every other institution.